"I Am Nobody; Who Are You?"
My friend Elisabeth from Missouri once sent
me this story. She just prefaced it with
the statement that "This is my story".
"Once upon a time there was a school
teacher. She had a class of little children
who were all learning to read and write and
get along with others. She broke up fights
and she hugged ones crying for home. She
helped them open their lunches and put their
coats on when it was time to go home.
In this class there was one different little
girl. She wasn't really pretty, just plain.
And she wasn't the smartest and sometimes
did stupid things and would cry or get mad.
She was messy with lunch and her art work.
But whatever the teacher asked the class
to do, she tried with all her heart to do
the very best she could. And so, even though
there were children in this class who were
smarter, and calmer, and prettier, and didn't
make nearly so much mess, the teacher loved
this little girl with all her heart."
Elisabeth concluded, "Today, this is
why Jesus said He loves me."
Another dear friend, this time from Saipan
handed me this short poem of Emily Dickinson,
one of the greatest American poems. "Just
read it", she told me smiling wittily.
"I'm nobody, who are you?
Are you nobody too?
There's a pair of us, don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know!
How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog,
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!"
This poem, stunning in its deceptive simplicity,
is Emily's most playful defense of the kind
of spiritual privacy she favored, implying
that to be a Nobody is a gift incomprehensible
to the boring Somebodies-for they are too
busy keeping their names in circulation,
croaking like frogs in a swamp in the summertime.
Nobodies are perhaps the most beautiful people
on earth. Working in a factory, one meets
all kinds of people. For years there was
this rather odd short man, always a little
dirty, always the same old red ball cap.
And always a garbage bag in one hand. He
used to walk around the big old factory on
his breaks and his lunch time collecting
aluminum cans. Day after day, month after
month for years. Hot days, cold days.
Everyone assumed that he just cashed these
cans at the recycle center. However one day
the secret was out. The manager asked the
can man what he did with all those cans.
"I give them to my neighbor, he's epileptic
and can't hold a job". A fellow worker
blurted out, "You mean you've been collecting
all those cans for all these years to give
to your neighbor?" "It isn't much"
he answered simply "but I give them
to him. He can't hold a job, he has too many
seizures". Alessandro Manzoni concludes
his poetic evocation of one of the most celebrated
figures in history Napoleon's ventures with
the question: "Was it true glory? In
posterity, the arduous sentence." This
doubt, about whether or not it was truly
glory, is not posed for all those self effacing,
unpretentious people who are daily and humbly
serving others. May be one of them!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
granted for any non-commercial use,
that the content is unaltered from
state, if this copyright notice is